When you think of October, one thing often comes to mind- ghost stories! During a time of year when leaves die in bright bursts of color, night creeps in earlier and earlier, and partiers dress themselves up as monsters, American culture revels in all things ghostly. Maybe you know of a house down the road where you swear you saw something, or your friend once told you of seeing a glimpse of a relative long after they’d died- but if you don’t have your own ghost story to relate, why not try one created by some of the best writers in genre fiction?
An entire package of such stories comes in Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, collected by legendary editor Ellen Datlow. Authors known from the fields of fantasy, horror and even literary fiction have all gathered to tell their eeriest stories. Writers as diverse as Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Garth Nix and Paul Tremblay have all lent their voices to this anthology, providing an intense sampler of some of the best contemporary writing- all in service of ghosts.
McGuire offered a full series-length take on the ghost story with Ghost Roads, starting with the book Sparrow Hill Road. The heroine Rose Marshall is that old staple of urban legends, the hitchhiking ghost. Back in the 1950s, on her way to the prom, she was run down by a James Dean-esque actor in a killer car, and now she haunts the highway, asking for rides and helping ferry those soon to die to their final destinations. Just because she’s dead, though, doesn’t mean she can’t be pulled into even further danger, pitted against her old enemy in a story right out of a deadly ballad.
Few horror fans will need an introduction to The Shining, but if you have only seen the film, you may be surprised by Stephen King’s most personal novel. The Overlook has a hotel’s worth of ghosts, and they’re looking for company. Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic who just wants to be a better family man, but soon the symptoms of his drinking start to occur without him so much as touching a drop...and then he has those bursts of anger...and then he becomes obsessed with a scrap book hidden in the basement...and soon enough he’s someone his beleaguered wife and child fear. Danny Torrence can see all the ghosts causing trouble and Wendy Torrence can see rather more than she wants to, and the only way to safety for them is down a mountain of snow. The story is as much a tragedy as it is a fatal battle- fitting enough for a ghost story.
And then there is the book that elevated ghosts to the halls of great literature, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. The titular Hill House is definitely bad news, as a group of paranormal researchers soon find out, but are there any actual ghosts within? Could it possibly be that the house itself has some sort of malign intelligence, and is now playing on the very personal fears and sorrows of the most fragile investigator? While the Netflix series recast the group as a family, each character in the novel has their own individual haunting history that brings them to Hill House. Our protagonist Eleanor is running from her family- only to find a new one, for good or for ill.
Intangible horrors and friendly spirits will keep you company throughout this reading list! Have fun and stay safe this Halloween, whether you stay in or go out. Just remember that hauntings can be found anywhere.
Written By: Mira G.
Edited By: Irenee W